Why Do Powerlifters Sniff Ammonia Smelling Salts?

Why Do Powerlifters Sniff Ammonia Smelling Salts?

It's a regular sight in a powerlifting competition: a contestant sniffs some dry powder immediately before approaching the bar. What they're doing is smelling ammonia salts.

Ammonia causes the production of adrenaline, which may help a powerlifter lift a larger weight in competition by increasing focus, minimising pains and aches, and generally turbo-charging the body to ready it for maximum lifts.

While the study on the benefits of sniffing salts for strength performance is limited and needs to be expanded, I'll explain how ammonia works and why powerlifters still sniff ammonia smelling salts.

How Do Ammonia Smelling Salts Work? 

Ammonia is considered a stimulant. When inhaled, it stimulates the nerve endings in your mucous membranes, lungs, and nose, causing an inhalation reflex.

The inhalation reflex is your central nervous system's method of safeguarding you from danger recognized by airway irritation. Consequently, adrenaline is generated, and your blood pressure and heart rate rise to boost oxygen flow throughout your body, especially your brain.

Simply asking a lifter at your gym what something feels like, or even scrolling through smelling ammonia salts gym reviews online, you're certain to hear or read someone describe the feeling as being "kicked in the face."

That sensation is a well-known phenomenon known as the fight or flight reaction. A sniff of ammonia effectively sends your body out, ready to battle, unless your opponent is a barbell in powerlifting.

Reasons Why Powerlifters Sniff Ammonia Smelling Salts

We'll explain why powerlifters sniff ammonia smelling salts before lifting heavy weights.

Increase Alertness and Focus

Sniffing salts ammonia is a practical way to get you "in the zone" physiologically and psychologically.

Those who have taken gym smelling salts before will tell you that it eliminates all distractions and ideas that might typically pass through their head in the seconds preceding a lift. You get so focused on raising the weight in front of you that you lose track of time.

This is why lifters don't usually sniff ammonia before every set or even utilize it in every session. Instead, they save it for huge one rep maxes, competition efforts, and other challenging activities.

Our natural "fight" reaction, which is stimulated by ammonia, exists to clear our brains of anxiety and ready us to go after whatever is threatening us, which in the gym may be a weight you've never lifted.

Moreover, if you are the sort of lifter who ruminates, walks up to the bar hesitantly, or generally second-guesses everything before a lift, ammonia may be a useful tool to help you get out of your brain and back into your body.

The effects on focus and alertness may be especially beneficial on days when you arrive for a session feeling mentally or physically exhausted.

Reduces Pains and Aches

Regular exercise, especially weightlifting, will always result in pains and aches in the body; it's unavoidable. However, while competing, powerlifters must generate their best lifting performance, which sensations of agony might impede.

Ammonia inhalants temporarily numb muscle pain by pumping the body with adrenaline, which might be critical in the greatest lifts that need every part of the body to work as hard as possible.

The problem is that body pains alert us that specific muscles need to rest. By utilizing ammonia to numb these signals, powerlifters risk causing injury or worsening these body aches.

Lift More Weight

Lifters may smell the ammonia as they think it will help them perform much better and carry more weight.

This is the most contentious of the reasons since research suggests that ammonia inhalants do not boost overall strength output.

However, recent research on trained boys and men suggests that the psychological impacts of sharpening attention and putting your mind into "fight mode" may increase performance, particularly in sports requiring much power.

Part of the increase in performance might be due to a placebo, but testing this notion is difficult since there isn't any substance available that creates a comparable sensation to breathing ammonia without actually having ammonia.

As a result, if you believe it helps you lift more weight, there isn't enough evidence to warn you to quit using it. Many powerlifters who, purely anecdotal, feel more powerful after sniffing ammonia will continue to use it regardless of what experts say.

Prepare the Body for Lifting

All of this is to suggest that ammonia aids powerlifters in preparing their bodies for the brief burst of stress they are about to be subjected to. The body is thrown into a flight or fight state by activating the production of adrenaline, which may improve performance.

Because the heart rate increases, more oxygen reaches blood cells, resulting in greater energy in the body. This adrenaline rush sharpens the intellect and makes muscles more sensitive, increasing the likelihood that the lift will be effective.

Reduces Competition Anxiety

Similarly, ammonia might momentarily relieve some of the anxiety and concerns that may arise before lifting the heaviest weights. Lifters often overthink the lift they're going to complete, which may lead to unpleasant sentiments that affect performance.

Ammonia inhalants may temporarily lessen the influence of negative thoughts by concentrating the mind and offering a surge of energy and adrenaline, allowing the powerlifter to give their best effort.

Prevent Lightheadedness

Heavy lifting puts a lot of strain on your body, and powerlifters may try a challenging lift that makes them feel dizzy and, in some cases, faint.

In addition, ammonia is often used as a smelling salt to revive someone who has already fainted, but ammonia salts may also prevent somebody from fainting in the first place.

Not only is feeling lightheaded or faint an unpleasant sensation, but it may also be hazardous while attempting a big lift. Ammonia smelling salts around me may assist in reducing the risk of such incidents.


Powerlifters have long used smelling salts to improve their lifting ability, and it's simple to understand why. The powder causes a surge of adrenaline, which may increase attention and put the body in a condition suitable for heavy lifting.

Powerlifting is a difficult kind of training that needs brief bursts of tremendous power, which is why ammonia may be so effective since its effects are only noticed for a short time.

Furthermore, it's noteworthy that ammonia should only be utilised in competitions or while accomplishing a maximum lift in training. This is because ammonia may have long-lasting repercussions on your overall form, making it unsuitable for weightlifting.

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